In recognition of his work to create welcoming communities for immigrants and refugees, David Lubell, founder and executive director of Welcoming America, has been named the 2017 recipient of the Charles Bronfman Prize.
Established in 2004 by Ellen Bronfman Hauptman and Stephen Bronfman — along with their spouses, Andrew Hauptman and Claudine Blondin Bronfman — in honor of their father, Charles Bronfman, the prize, which, includes a $100,000 cash award, recognizes an individual who has made a significant contribution to humanitarian work.
Launched in 2009, Welcoming America works to connect and help communities, government, and nonprofits plan for the inclusion of immigrants and realize the social and economic benefits of immigration. Based in Decatur, Georgia, the organization is working with nearly two hundred communities across the United States to eliminate institutional barriers that make it harder for immigrants to fully integrate while also addressing the concerns and needs of longtime community residents. During the Obama years, the organization provided technical assistance to the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement as well as nonprofits charged with supporting the resettlement of refugees, contributed to the launch of the White House Task Force on New Americans, and helped shape that agency's strategic action plan.
Lubell holds a bachelor's degree from Wesleyan University and a master's degree in public administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and has received several social entrepreneurship fellowships, including the Ashoka Fellowship (2012) and the Draper Richards Kaplan Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship (2011). Prior to founding Welcoming America, he co-founded Students for Affordable Housing in Connecticut, taught English in Ecuador, worked as a community organizer at the nonprofit Latino Memphis, and founded and served as executive director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition.
"At a time when the U.S. and countries around the world face unprecedented polarization, David Lubell's work creates understanding and connectivity between Americans and immigrants," said Charles Bronfman. "By ensuring they are made to feel welcome in their new homes, Welcoming America shows us how we can all benefit from the resilience, talent, and positive impact of these new Americans — which has forever been the experience of our nation of immigrants."
"On the eve of World Refugee Day, I am honored to bring awareness — through the Charles Bronfman Prize — to the courage and determination of all people who come to the U.S. for a better life, as well as to the importance of our country living up to its values as a welcoming nation," said Lubell. "Welcoming communities are vital to our shared future, and it is only by finding common ground and working together that our communities and nation can thrive. As a Jewish American, nothing could make me feel more connected to my values, and to my history, than working to 'welcome the stranger,' and I am thrilled that the judges recognized the significance of this work."